07 August 2011

FZ1 Maintenance: Cleaning the header pipes

I'm categorizing this maintenance because while I was doing it I looked at some parts of the bike I never think about.  I check to make sure all those bolts were tight, felt around for some holes, and inspected for rust.  I'm sure there was some other stuff I was supposed to be looking for but didn't bother with!
Sam the day after I bought him
The first time I cleaned my header pipes was two years after I bought the bike.  I noticed for the first time that the header pipes are not supposed to be dull gold!  I checked on the FZ1OA forum to see what everyone else did about their gold pipes then went to Pep Boys and bought some Blue Magic Polish.  I followed the instructions but ended up with shiny gold pipes, not the silver looking one's I'd seen in the Yamaha pic.  Then I remembered Barkeeper's Friend.  I used it all the time on Sam because the head pipes are apart of the beauty of the bike and need to be cleaned for it to look good.

From the first time I ever cleaned the headers
The 4 cylinder FZ1's headers are hidden behind the tire and rarely get looked at or thought about unless the bike is running funny.  Then they say throw water on them to make sure the bike is running on all cylinders or look at them to see if they are discolored.  If you don't clean them, telling if they're discolored is hard to do.  So one afternoon, I pulled Baby out of the garage, took out the Barkeepers friend and some rags then got to work.  It took hours and I was exhausted after I finished but thrilled to know I could get the pipes looking show room new with a little effort.

That effort also added cleaning the headers to my yearly list of things to do for the bike.  I may have done it this year already but I decided to do it again after riding through a lot of rain during my last few rides.  The pipes needed some TLC!

Just plain nasty!

I keep seeing questions on the forums about cleaning the headers and thought I'd dedicate a post to the process.  Normally I might have mentioned it when I post about the R6 shock install Cruzman and I will be doing tomorrow or put a pic in on one of the ride reports and assume the world knows what to do.  With those questions in mind, today I took detailed pics.

Step One:  Gather the stuff.
As I've said, I use Barkeeper's Friend (BF).  In addition to BF, I use the Blue Magic Polish (BMP) because I already bought it and it leaves a protective film.

From now on, I'll be using microfiber cleaning cloths.  I got a bunch from Sam's the other day and cut one into 4 equal pieces to use on the pipes.  I also use a plastic container and water to make the BF into a paste.

Step Two:  Make your paste.
Over the years, I've learned to make a paste rather than putting it on a wet rag because it's easier to apply.  All it takes is a bit of water and some BF in the plastic container.

Step Three:  Clean the headers.
First wet one of the rags and wipe a pipe to get it wet and to get what'll come off with a simple wiping off.  Then using a dry rag, dip it into the paste and rub it on the pipe.  I start with a finger and then progress to the whole hand method.

I do two on one side then wipe the BF off with the wet rag before I move to the other side.  This way I don't get BF on the already clean pipe and only need to clean the pipes of BF once.  Next I move to the other side and repeat the process.  When I need to add BF paste, I use the same spot on the rag.

By the time you get done, you have a good sized pasty spot on the rag.  When I'm done, I store the rag this way and will use this rag to get the spots of off the midpipe where I inadvertently touch with my boot.  When you're done, you'll have 4 clean pipes!
Cleaning in progress.  I leave the film on while I do the pipe next to it.

BF applied to both pipes.  Now wipe it off with the wet rag.

Step Four.  Polish the Headers.
I've learned after you clean the headers, they should be polished to protect them.  I don't know what I'm protecting them from but I can say since I've been doing this, the next time I clean them they are less dirty.
Polish applied to all 4 headers.
I use the third rag dry and put the polish on the rag.  Using the single finger method like I did when I put the BF on, I add the polish to the headers then progress to the whole hand method until the polish looks like the bottle says it should look before you wipe it off.

Here's what my rags look like when I'm done.
L to R:  Polish off rag, Polish on rag, BF on rag, Prewipe rag
Now the cleaned and polished headers:

You would think you were done and can go get a celebratory beer but you're not.  The same gold patina that develops on the headers creeps up the midpipe too!

Step Five.  Don't forget the midpipe and muffler!
Same process, different parts.
Before.  I usually clean my midpipe more often because I can't remember not to put my feet on it!
Cleaned and Polished.
Now you can go get your beer...unless your me.  My used pipe had carbon build up that was fugly and bothered me.  Each time I clean the pipe, I try to get it out.  This time I succeeded!  I guess the microfiber cloths are better than my old t-shirts and worth the extra expense.  Do you need to include the tail pipe outlet in your process?  If it looks good to you, don't bother but I prefer this:
Cleaned outlet pipe.  I polished the outside but not the inside.
I know you're saying I missed a few spots.  More than you know.  I got tired and decided I needed to save some energy for tomorrow's install of the R6 shock and stopped.  I'll get the rest of it another day.

Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer

A little more to do.  To see this you have to be on the ground behind the bike and WANT to see it.


  1. Nice! I gotta get me some of that and clean mine up. I would love to see them silver again. Thanks Patrice! Donnie (aka Sammax on FZ1OA)

    1. No problem Donnie. I'll be cleaning the pipes and stuff this week in prep for the Rally. Can't show up where there'll be a bunch of FZ1s with an overly dirty bike can I?


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